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Thread: Frugality taken too far

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Frugality taken too far

    My grandparents were exceedingly frugal folks who were profoundly affected by the Great Depression. They took the whole 'waste not want not' axiom very seriously. One of my least fond memories of childhood is the time my brother and I stayed overnight at grandma & grandpa's. Grandma asked what we wanted for breakfast and I said Alphabits cereal. Eager and happy to oblige, grandma proceeded to empty the remaining contents of the cereal box into our bowls. It was the bottom of the box so she tapped the bottom several time to make sure all the cereal dust/powder at the bottom found its way into the soggy milk.

    Vinyl or naugahide uphosltery repairs at gramma/grampa's were accomplished with (seriously) aqua blue duct tape. Paper bags with holes in them were occasionally repaired with masking tape. There were some other incredibly cheap things they did, but I think we'll open the floor to others to discuss their observations of frugality gone amock.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
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    When the hand soap dispenser no longer dispenses soap, my mom will fill it with water, shake it around, and continue using it.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    The "you'll wear it out" philosophy comes to mind, where you're not actually entitled to make full use of your possessions, because using them will impose wear and tear. I always thought "what's the point of having it, then, if you're not going to use it?" Some examples that come to mind include:

    * Remote controls, or any battery-powered devices.
    * Home and car air conditioning.
    * Formal living rooms, in houses that also have family rooms.

    A couple other things come to mind from my childhood.

    * Saving gift boxes from department stores to reuse for birthdays and holidays for years to follow. Kinda' cool, actually, getting something in a box from a department store chain that folded in the 1980s.

    * Driving 20 miles to a remote gas station that charges five cents a gallon cheaper than anyplace close. Never mind that you burn a couple of gallons to get to that station and back ....

    * My dad would make duct tape repairs on his favorite recliner, until about a quarter of the surface was covered in gray. It made Fraiser's Dad's recliner look good in comparison.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian Seabishop's avatar
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    My family never did this but . . . only flushing for #2 to save water.

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    My grandparents were exceedingly frugal folks who were profoundly affected by the Great Depression.... It was the bottom of the box so she tapped the bottom several time to make sure all the cereal dust/powder at the bottom found its way into the soggy milk.
    I always thought the dust/powder at the bottom of the cereal box was the best part. It's extra sugary! Maybe that's only because my favorite cereals are the ones that have about a ton of added sugar (Count Chocula, Fruity Pebbles, Fruit Loops, etc.).

    One of my great-aunts was another one of those profoundly affected by the Great Depression - she would re-use paper napkins until they were nearly transparent from multiple dinners and lunches.

    I've been reusing the same brown paper lunch bag since August of 2010 (I have the date written on it) and I will reuse the same Ziplock baggies multiple times for chips, cookies, or other snacks (I throw them away if I carried something moist in it). My wife thinks this is disgusting... this coming from the woman who is still reusing wrapping paper from her wedding showers in 2008.

    I've had one of my pair of dress shoes for over a decade and a pair of leather boots for about 15 years. Both look brand new even though they each get worn multiple times a week. I buff them out each day after wearing, apply a tiny bit of polish every once in a great while, and always store them with shoe trees installed. I have replaced the soles and heels on them a few times. I paid more for these shoes and boots when I bought them with the intention that they would be something that would stand the test of time. So far, I have not been disappointed.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    My grandparents would load up on various condiment packets from fast food restaurants and stock them in the fridge, any and all plastic cups would get stored in the panty. They had a "fill your pockets" mentality when it came to freebies, which was probably the result of growing up during the Great Depression. Lately I've been thinking the same way..

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    Cyburbian Planit's avatar
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    Well I'm glad to hear my mom wasn't the only batshit crazy lady who did things like this.

    Most recent example, we meet once a year for a family get together. She brought the 2-litre Coke that was used last year but didn't finish it.
    "Whatever beer I'm drinking, is better than the one I'm not." DMLW
    "Budweiser sells a product they reflectively insist on calling beer." John Oliver

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    The "you'll wear it out" philosophy comes to mind, where you're not actually entitled to make full use of your possessions, because using them will impose wear and tear. I always thought "what's the point of having it, then, if you're not going to use it?" Some examples that come to mind include:
    I've observed that in the having your cake versus eating your cake department, folks who lived during the Depression almost always tend to go with the having your cake philosophy. Maybe having unused/pristine 'guest towels' in the bathroom was seen as a sort of status symbol. And one is supposed to intentionally ignore the runners over the carpets and plastic covers on the furniture because it is understood these things are necessary to preserve the 'having' aspect of furniture or carpeting.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    My parents and their siblings were all children of the Depression, too, and they did some quirky things, most notably never throwing anything away because somebody might make use of it some day. My dad and stepmom were the champs though. They saved not only plastic margarine and cool whip containers (a very common "frugalism" even for non-Depression Era folk) but also plastic wrappers from loaves of bread. They never used them for anything as far as I know, just collected them.

    I find myself getting more frugal as I age, although nothing extreme. I just don't recreational shop very much for one thing. I also haven't gone near a garage sale this season.
    If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. -- John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Seabishop View post
    My family never did this but . . . only flushing for #2 to save water.
    If it's yellow, let it mellow.
    If it's brown, flush it down.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    I got in the habit (from being a grad student working minimum wage jobs) of patching my clothes. Then I got my first planning job on an island in Alaska, where the only clothes you could buy were Carharts and tourist t-shirts. When my soon-to-be-wife moved in, she took one look at my clothes and decided that much of my clothes were not clothes. They were rags. Some of these "rags" I had to retrieve from the dumpster on a semi-regular basis. I think part of the problem was some of these "rags" were clothes given to me by a former girlfriend.

    Part of my honeymoon was spent in the J.C. Penneys in Juneau, where she made sure I bought a whole new wardrobe.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    No one has mentioned the grease can - a staple of my youth. Cause, why use that new, expensive grease when you've got a "filtered" (through cheese cloth) container of perfectly good rancid stuff right there by the stove?!

    The Depression and WWII were both big contributors to some of my parents' peculiarities. For a long time we still had my mother's childhood bike which was cobbled together from miscellaneous parts salvaged from the dump by my grandfather. During WWII, bikes were hard to come by because so much steel was going to the war effort. They apparently kept it as a reminder to tell me all about it. Again and again. I certainly never rode it...

    My parents weren't too frugal, really, just terribly pragmatic (no plastic covers on the furniture and runners on the carpet - but I had plenty of friends who suffered that humiliation). Their mid-life crisis car, for example, was a diesel rabbit. Two-door. Way to step out there and do something indulgent for yourselves, guys! Also, my father would not allow me to buy any white clothes. Ever. It got dirty too easily, he said. I had many pairs of shoes, pants, shirts, etc. that were really one or even 2 sizes too big. No matter, they said, I'd grow into it. Well, at some point I didn't. For a long while (until I sold it), I had a bike that was always too big for me and soccer cleats that were the same. I was like a clown out there on the field with my enormous feet and shorts falling down....

    Now that I am a parent, I find myself doing a lot of the annoying things my parents did. I also reuse plastic bags and tend to wear clothes beyond what many would consider "presentable." I make my kids get slightly large shoes. I mainly get my clothes (and the kids') at thrift stores. We "let it mellow" depending on the conditions. Only once have I owned a car that was made in the same decade in which I lived. My wife saves all wrapping paper and gift bags for reuse. And so on.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

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    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I've mentioned this one before: my parents dressed my sister and me identically (not every outfit, but a lot of them) for years. She was 4 months older than me but quite a bit taller. After she outgrew her matching outfit, I always had to wear the hand me down. When my younger brother passed me in height, I got to wear his hand me down jeans.

    My dad refused to eat any leftovers except Mom's meatloaf which he'd eat in sandwiches. Mom and we three kids, on the other hand, got to chow down on at least the main dish leftovers until all was gone. I still do this, freezing leftover meats for lunch-time salads, the kid and I will eat leftover ribs or chinese take-out a couple days later, etc. RJ only eats leftovers if it's something like chili, where I make a big pot and serve him a bowl maybe once a month. So it's not really leftovers in my book.

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    My grandmother also lived through the Great Depression and saved everything to reuse at a future time. I remember when we moved out of her apartment we had to go through all of her things. She would wash and fold used aluminum foil to use again, same for plastic tubs with lids and plastic baggies, wrapping paper, etc. She had a crap ton of clothes that were way beyond their fashion expiration that ponged of mothballs but you could only get her to begrudgingly let it go to the Salvation Army or Goodwill and not the trash. She saved every bill and statement she ever received, all neatly organized and boxed. She'd kill you if you didn't eat everything on your plate and you had to eat the leftovers the next day.

    My mom used to have the same affinity for the plastic tubs and food/leftovers and had a coffee can of grease . I don't like to waste water unnecessarily but letting it "mellow" is gross so we flush. I am a minimalist in response to my mom and grandma's habits of hanging on to stuff. It leaves my house if you haven't worn it, used it, read it, or otherwise needed it in the past 6 months.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

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    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    If it's yellow, let it mellow.
    If it's brown, flush it down.
    Thats fine and all, but what about the other colors?

    If its green, the doctor should be seen.
    If its white, somethings not right.
    If its red, you might be dead.
    Children in the back seat can cause accidents - and vice versa.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I can remember the cheap contest at a Wigallia (Polish Christmas meal - Vik-gail-ya) about 15 years back. My uncle (an high end manager at General Motors) was showing off the obvioulsy too small suit he bought at Goodwill for $5. My newly college graduate cousin wanted to outcheap him so she brings down three interview suits she bought for $20. I turn to dad who was wearing a suit he bought for $500 and new Johnston and Murphys and a tie that cost double what the other two paid together for four suits. I said "thats nothing, Dad tell him how much you paid for your outfit!" He then smacked me on the back of the noggin'!

    A couple of years earlier I had bought a kareoke machine at Meijer (midwestern Walmart) and found a tape and songbook of polish Christmas Carols at a local Polish store for $8. So I bring em to the Wigallia, and the extended family could not believe I spent so much money on trying to improve the entertainment. It turns out it was a total flop. The old folks never wanted to use it insisting that the arrangement was wrong. I finally realized that the polish Christmas carols were not so flat after all!

    We never had to wait to flush. Dad worked for the DPW for 46 years. He knew that the water bill help pay his bills.

    While much of my family was downright cheap, my parents pretty much never were. Even though we lived in the ghetto, we went to private schools until college. Dad would not consider driving a car that was not pimping or had a V-8 (the one exception was he lapse with the 1981 Plymouth Horizon, but he made sure that had the biggest engine they made 2.2 litres!) Eventually all of the older relatives died and made dad a very wealthy man. Moral of the story, you can't take it with ya, the shroud has no pockets!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by wahday View post
    No one has mentioned the grease can - a staple of my youth. Cause, why use that new, expensive grease when you've got a "filtered" (through cheese cloth) container of perfectly good rancid stuff right there by the stove?!
    I grew up on a dairy farm but we occasionally would have pigs and when we would have them slaughtered, we would of course get the lard to cook with. I always thought keeping that coffee can full of grease next to the stove was entirely normal! It wasn't until I finally got a place of my own, after a stint in the Marine Corps, that I realized nobody saves and reuses their grease anymore.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I agree with Maister on many of these points and even compliment him the vintage of his clothing and vehicle.

    In some ways, I take frugality to an extreme, in other ways, not so much. WOW it is messed up when I think about it. The wife made me buy a new pair of dress shoes when she caught me using a hair dryer to melt black electrical tape to the underside of the rubber sole to patch a whole. Clothing is not much better. She has tossed out so much of my stuff and forces me to replace it. I had 10 or so t-shirts that I would wear when I did landscaping or worked around the house... none of them can be found now. I could not make an outgoing phone call on my cell phone for almost a month, but I did upgrade to the iPhone 5 last week.

    I will go without something or used a very damaged something while saving up to replace it. But when I do replace it, it must be extremely good quality or I will continue to use what I have. Silverware, dishes, and cookware is a great example of this. Before we got married, we had bad hand-me down stuff, mixed with plastic silverware and dishes that we would wash. For wedding gifts, we registered for very simple looking but very high quality stuff and ended up getting most of it in pieces and saved up to get the other stuff we needed.

    My car has way over 200,000 miles on it, is rusted in parts, has no AC, the sun roof will not open, and about 10 other mechanical issues. It will get me from point A to point B without issue, even if those points are 300+ miles apart. We however do not let the kids ride in the car because we worry about the issues and don't want to chance it. However, I bought it with cash 10 years ago, and I am saving up for a replacement. I have not decided what it will be, but now I am leaning towards a 2 or 3 year old VW Diesel Jetta that I will once again pay cash for.

    In many ways today's society is full of disposable items. We toss our shoes away instead of resole them, we turn our clothes into rags if they have a small tear instead of mend them, very few people use cloth diapers anymore, many people get a new Cell phone very couple years or sooner, even if the old one worked, and just look at how foods and products are packaged today.
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Dang, I did not think of myself as cheap, but I do many of the things I see listed here. I will not buy used clothes, though, and I always flush.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    I grew up on a dairy farm but we occasionally would have pigs and when we would have them slaughtered, we would of course get the lard to cook with. I always thought keeping that coffee can full of grease next to the stove was entirely normal! It wasn't until I finally got a place of my own, after a stint in the Marine Corps, that I realized nobody saves and reuses their grease anymore.
    I never really thought of it as a frugal thing. My mom had a bacon grease container by the stove for years. We used it to grease the pan so the food would have more flavor. I cannot imagine, for example, making rice dressing or cornbread dressing without first sauteing the celery (cel'ry, for Maister ), onions, garlic and green peppers in bacon grease.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

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    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    I knew a guy who saved the slivers of soap that were too small to use, and then make a bar out of them.

    I almost always buy used clothes, unless I have an interview. Too much cheap (but quality) stuff in the thrift stores.
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    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Mastiff View post
    I knew a guy who saved the slivers of soap that were too small to use, and then make a bar out of them.
    I sort of do that. I will stick the wet sliver of soap on the new bar of soap, so when it dries, they are stuck together.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  24. #24
    Cyburbian mgk920's avatar
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    I don't consider sticking small bars of soap (yes, even those that the hotels and motels give you) together to make usable larger ones to be anything out of the ordinary and I also stick the old shower soap bar to a new bar when it gets too small. I also have a pump shampoo bottle that I got several years ago that I refill - it always delivers just the right amount each time that I use it. It takes very little time to take care of those things. I have a few used food 'tub' containers that I use to store and hold things, enough to be useful, but I don't save every one that I get. I'll even use the blank sides of old sheets of paper for 'cheap' computer printing. I don't upgrade to the latest new gizmo every six months and I use cars up, having no problems making major repairs to them, before they are replaced with good, serviceable used ones.

    OTOH, Yes, I flush every time, too. Some actions of 'frugality' cross over to 'cheapness' (or 'hoarding', in the case of hanging onto things) and are just too over the top.

    Another 'over the top' cheapness thing that I have heard of some people doing - rerolling two-ply TP rolls into single-ply rolls. I just buy the biggest package of the 1000 sheet rolls that I can find when I run low.

    Mike

  25. #25
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by otterpop View post
    ...I will stick the wet sliver of soap on the new bar of soap, so when it dries, they are stuck together.
    I do the same thing because it increases the lifespan of our landfill--about one day. I'm proud to do my part. Think if we all did this...you can all thank me later.
    RJ is the KING of . The One

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